Whether she is psychologically troubled or cynically opportunistic or altruistically sincere, Rachel Dolezal has done anybody who ever sucked at the teat of Hollywood and Madison Avenue and the media-political complex an enormous favor. She has, wittingly or not, exposed the fraud that is the essence of what one writer calls "neoliberal antiracism."
As Jodi Melamed of Marquette University explains in Represent and Destroy, it is precisely the official civil rights statutes on the American books as well as the mass media's shallow embrace of "diversity" and multiculturalism -- along with corporate-funded academia's complicit production of an elite black managerial-political class -- that paradoxically gives cover to the global racist predations of the American Imperium. The American political system was able to "capture" the energy of 60s and 70s social movements and then cynically put it to work for capitalism and international conquest.
The "outing" of Rachel Dolezal is only the latest consequence of the sham that is American racial equality. Insofar that it minimally exists, the plutocratic embrace of diversity is exposed more and more as a public relations gimmick: a means, writes Melamed, "to secure US interests, not an end in itself."
This profit motive of neoliberal inclusiveness was perfectly satirized in the Mad Men finale, in which the predatory psychopath Don Draper suddenly gets religion and teaches the whole world to sing in perfect multicultural harmony... while slurping bottles of Coke. Because it's the "real thing," and even black and brown people (or more precisely, their money) are entitled to "snow-white turtle doves."
The Rachel controversy is weirdly reminiscent of the marketing campaign of Coke. Pundits are now arguing about whether trans-racialism is as real a thing as trans-genderism. Which brand is more genuine: Coke or Pepsi? Caitlyn Jenner's photo-shopped Vanity Fair cover, or Rachel's enhanced pigmentation?
Of course, this identity politics controversy conveniently distracts us from paying any more attention to the ugly racist reality of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and its embrace of the Malaysian slave trade, or noticing that ugly trans-fat will soon be banned by the most Transparent Administration Ever (TM). So I cynically wonder: are the big factory food conglomerates therefore already salivating to sue us in a secret investor state dispute tribunal somewhere in order to claw back millions in alleged lost profits for being denied the right to poison us with their fatty glop?
Did I mention that Coca-Cola (along with the Grocery Manufacturers lobby) is one of the 600 or so multinationals secretly dictating the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership? Did I even have to?
Since the oligarchs have "officially" stopped racism over here by allowing a rainbow coalition to buy their various products and propaganda, they pretend that they have the moral authority to impose their will, their bubbly drinks, their corporate tribunals, their power and their poisons to marginalized people all over the borderless One World. When liberals raised on Coke commercials and To Kill a Mockingbird elected our first black president, what more perfect opportunity for the ruling class racketeers to really, totally let loose with the hegemony and the wars and Wall Street-friendly policies that liberals would normally oppose? Barack Obama has been their perfect fig leaf salesman and enabler. As Melamed eloquently writes,
It should not be possible to be antiracist without being against oppression. Yet race-liberal hegemony has been so effective that today in the United States everyone is antiracist, and yet oppression is banal and ubiquitous. We live with it, accepting the idea of racializing no-go zones and new vulnerabilities to premature death for disposable classes; we eat it, consuming bananas harvested by dispossessed Indians in Honduras who work under the threat of gunfire and grapes picked by migrant laborers who are hunted by the same people who enjoy the literal fruits of their labor; we pay for it, supporting militias in Iraq that stake their territorial claims on women's bodies; we study it, publishing research showing that human trafficking (slavery) is more pervasive than ever and that under the current system, blacks will never gain wealth equality with whites -- findings that receive scant hearing and generate less uproar.And just as Rachel Dolezal has blown the shallow cosmetic cover off self-righteous white American liberalism, the #BlackLivesMatter movement has blown the cover right off American "post-racialism." While our ruling class trumpets its domestic inclusiveness and diversity even as it wages wars against the world's dispossessed, the de facto domestic oppression made manifest by mass black incarceration and police brutality in Baltimore, Ferguson, Cleveland and Staten Island is being laid bare for all the world to see. The moral legitimacy of American militarism and economic global leadership is displaying some unmistakable and long-hidden lethal cracks. The extreme center cannot hold. The insipid "We Are the World" neoliberal theme song is sounding more dissonant with each new war, each new corporate power grab, each new police shooting.
No wonder that Barack Obama viciously called black dissenters in Baltimore a bunch of "thugs" even as he wails about the temporary thwarting of his imperialistic pivot to Asia as encompassed in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The spiritual power gained by the ruling class from his election is beginning to wane as he reaches the end of his tenure and an upstart social democrat named Bernie Sanders is exposing the dynastic Bush-Clinton Neoliberal Death Match in uncomfortably high relief.
Rachel Dolezal, meanwhile, has helped to further expose the cosmetic fraud of racial identity politics as sold to and by the liberal class. (Or more accurately, the corporate media are exposing it through their over-the-top coverage of Rachel Dolezal) The only thing that possibly made self-proclaimed liberals in the Age of Obama more uncomfortable was when socially acceptable and safe black TV dad Bill Cosby was exposed as a serial rapist. Because anti-racists have largely relied on media portrayals of successful African-Americans to give them aid and comfort, even as the lives and livelihoods of the vast majority of black and brown people have grown more precarious. It is the very elevation of a very tiny handful of successful blacks that allows us to stigmatize and pathologize huge swathes of what reactionaries are so fond of calling "black culture."
Rachel Dolezal was the perfect stereotype of what the white supremacist system calls an African-American success story: smart, educated, hard-working, safely bound up in corporate academia and party politics, exquisitely coiffed and dressed, and articulate. She was the very model of an acceptable assimilated black feminist. Until she wasn't.
In the space of a nanosecond she went from Clair Huxtable to Lindsay Lohan. She was not the "real thing." And the neoliberal class is not amused as the whole world watches the precarious edifice crumble.